Updated: May 14, 2019


I’m rejoicing! Im about to share some very heartening food news with you! It’s news that makes our country proud. It’s all about our very own pure vegetarian “annam” which not only stunned the carnivorous gourmets of the world but had them asking for more. This happened in the foodie city of New Orleans at the very prestigious “Dinner lab” and presenting this pristine “annam” along with its benefits as “supreme medicine” was our very own knowledgable and talented, author and chef, the Chennai based Viji Varadarajan.

Chef and author Viji Varadarajan, making India proud


As Chef Viji explained  to her American gourmet audience “ ‘Annam’, or food, is a form of the Almighty, as all beings are born and live by food.” She then (along with friend and sous chef Chithra Prasankumar went on to share the culture and ethos of Hindu cuisine, as well as its importance in daily life, not only as sustenance but also as the supreme medicine. And what followed was a meal which was a masterpiece of textures and flavors, starting with the  Semia Uppuma

Avial, Bajj, Beans Kari Kothu Kadalai Sundal Yelumicha Pazha Sadham Thakali Vengaya Thuvayal Badam Halwa

All served on bio-degradable plantain leaves.. Remarks on the wonderful flavors of the cuisine  to the full marks in the rating cards. Also many had tasted non-vegetarian North Indian cuisine and so were blown off their feet by these pristine flavors. The oft repeated surprised comment  – ‘how come this food tastes so good without adding a paste of ginger-garlic’?! The unique pristine flavors of this cuisine were received with standing ovations.In Viji’s words “It was thrilling at the same time completely satisfying.”


Viji at the Dinner Lab in New Orleans

Spearheading this superb foodie-dream-come-true concept of the “Dinner lab” (where Viji presented her Annam) is the brilliant young American Brian Bordainick.

Dinner Lab transforms a meal into an experience. It brings the wisdom of crowds to fine dining, and it does so at about 1,500 events a year, in 24 cities in America.  Interestingly, Dinner Lab began as an attempt to help fill a dining niche in New Orleans: a restaurant that was open after11 p.m. and was not a tourist trap. It all started in a nondescript warehouse where a food revolution was brewing almost about 4 years back. Not only are the most brilliant chefs invited to participate (including from the Worlds leading restaurants, like Eleven madison Park,) but interaction with them and  feedback in the form  of a detailed comment card during the event, critiquing everything is encouraged.. The aspiring chefs can use those notes to refine their dishes. In essence, Dinner Lab creates a farm team for local restaurants, and the effects on careers can be dramatic. And ofcourse, the diners have a once-in-a-lifetime-experience!


Here’s an American’s feedback! Says Rebecca Gardner

“Chef Viji hosted a beautifully presented and thoughtfully executed meal for her Dinner Lab guests. She began by providing intriguing background on Annam cuisine, of which I was unfamiliar with prior to her dinner.

Her meal was exquisite; each course contained unique flavors and displayed a depth that is only found in the best restaurants. My friends and I obsessed over the tomato onion chutney to the point where we requested for what little remained to be left on our table for the duration of the meal. The chutney alone justified my purchasing both of Chef Viji’s published cookbooks. Not only did her chutney stand out in my mind, but the french bean stir fry, the chick pea snack and the almond saffron fudge are dishes that continue to resonate with me”

And here are the comments from an Indian

“As an Indian, a Tambram of course & as a global foodie it such a wonderful concept too, to do this event planned with the mentioned details.” This from from the  Chennai based dynamic head of the Savera group of hotels.

Nina Reddy

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© 2019 by Rashmi Uday Singh

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